AirDroid

I’d been looking for an app to mirror my Android phone screen to my Windows 10 computers, and after clicking around, and reading a bit, I found AirDroid. Originally the search was to mirror a older Nexus 5 phone (with no active SIM card) with Kodi installed, to a Roku, but scope creep, you know? I will say that it also popped up in a webinar that Barry Dahl was running too, and that prompted me to revisit it after downloading and letting it languish amongst all the other apps on my phone.

So the app on the Android side is constantly running, which can tax the battery a bit. It would be nice to not have a constant notification that AirDroid is running… but for free, it’s a good enough trade off. The Windows side of things are decent, but again, a little clunky to get it to do what I want. If I mirror, and then close the app (it’s still running in the background, by the way) there’s no way to restart the mirror without essentially opening the program again, to receive an error that the program is already running… again, for free, it’s good, but not super elegant.

Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve been asked about Brightspace Pulse a couple of times, and needed to demonstrate it to a group of students. It’s the sort of thing that I thought wouldn’t need introductions, but apparently, does. I’m surprised, because at last count, there was only 3% usage of the app at my institution. Hopefully the outreach we’ve been doing encourages students to try out the app and see if it’s for them. Actually, we need to encourage faculty to put in start and end dates for stuff as well… but all in good time.

Is Everyone an Instructional Designer?

This is a re-post of writing that appeared here: https://idigontario.ca/2018/10/28/is-everyone-an-instructional-designer/ as part of the 9x9x25 challenge. Admittedly, I’m not an Instructional Designer, but I am. Here’s the post:

Am I an instructional designer? I work in educational technology, talk to people about using tools and help people design better learning, but does that make me an instructional designer? Educational technology is a place that can often drive pedagogical change, and it’s strange how often it goes unacknowledged as an accomplice in converting people to better pedagogy. How often do you as an instructional designer have a conversation about a piece of technology that forces the person you’re working with to rethink what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it? It may not be the great revelatory exclamation of “Oh my, this is going to change my life!” – but sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly, a change is made.

EdTech forces change.

It’s change that is opted into, by selecting the tool or technology, but it is change nonetheless. I can hear the counter arguments; “that’s not change, it’s choice!” I’d counter, that it’s a choice to change. Often in the adoption of a new tool, you have an opportunity to make large scale changes; most people don’t do that, but they make a smaller, incremental change. Sometimes change stops there. Sometimes, it pushes further, changing assessment strategies, approaches to instruction, facilitation techniques. That’s where you (or I) are able to help.

My role has been traditionally to help people with the how of things; how to set up a gradebook in the LMS, how to use classroom response tools to do things in the classroom – and early on I realized that lots of people really were looking for how-to, but never thought much about the why they were doing things. Sometimes the answer to why was simply, “the department asked me to go online” – but the people who did think about the why ended up much more satisfied. Looking to help in a more productive way I’ve become somewhat annoying in consultations, asking things like “why are you doing this?” and “what do you hope to accomplish with this change?” Those questions are less about technical details, and more about design of learning. It’s been interesting to note how instructional design intersects with media development, technical support, systems administration and of course, teaching. Each of those intersections can be opportunities to talk about how that particular learning experience can be improved. Creating a video? Why, what can that help you accomplish? The questions open up a rich conversation filled with the proverbial box of chocolates. In some ways, that make me, a (looking at my work badge) Learning Technologies Analyst, an Instructional Designer.

It’s unfortunate, that I didn’t know that until six or seven years ago. Honestly, it would’ve made my early career make a lot more sense. So those of you who are working in educational technology, supporting the use of a tool and putting in tickets to bug vendors to fix things, you might be an Instructional Designer.

Jon Kruithof is a Learning Technologies Analyst at McMaster University

What’s New?

Well, another semester start, and still the tickets pour in. Another season’s change and change is in the air. The department I’m in has gone through a self-study, and the results suggest that we’re not great at communicating and we need a strategy. Those are good suggestions and things we can enact. In other news, I’ve decided to apply to begin my Master’s, more on that when I’m accepted. I’m also a part of the Open Education Ontario cohort of Open Rangers, which is exciting and a touch scary. Maybe not scary, but I’m such a novice at open, even though I’m wholeheartedly behind the idea of open.

I think I’ll start blogging again, at least intermittently. There’s so much good going on right now, oh wait…. well not politically. But education is in a place that can really help with some of the struggles online right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my own head struggling with what I want to do with my life. I have felt trapped, unchallenged and basically in a rut. I couldn’t do what I’ve done in the past, quit and find something else, because I’ve been the primary bread winner and you know, wanted to keep a house and eating. I’m also 45 in a couple weeks, and that’s weighing heavily on me as well. So instead of trying to start something exciting and new with a significant impact on my life, I decided to stay and try to do something. Admittedly, there’s been some things that have made an pathway forward available, but I don’t want to say more in case the powers that be go in a different direction. Needless to say, if things work out, I’ll be challenged. I also think I’m ready for that challenge.

Oh, I started a music blog and podcast called General Admission. It’s only a monthly thing as a “creative” outlet (which involves buying media toys like lavalier microphones and podcast hosting) that really talks about punk primarily. If you only want to sample the best, check out Podcast #2, which talks about a similar riff throughout several different genres of music.  I hope to get to that level of thought and interest for every episode, but admittedly, if you’re not as into the New Bomb Turks, or The Dicks (forthcoming episode) then you might find that not every episode is to your liking.

I’m Not Dead

Life is really, really busy, and I’ve neglected the blog. I apologize to myself, mostly, because that’s what this is for. I’ve been hit with a bit of malaise, a bit of wanderlust, and well the doldrums of the work EdTech workers do – which can be somewhat satisfying, but unchallenging. I haven’t been asked to think or be creative in a long while, and that’s a bit taxing.

I thought that EdTech was something that I still wanted to do, but I’ve realized it’s just the job I have. And that’s OK. I keep telling myself that anyways. But more and more, EdTech is not OK. We’re beholden to someone else’s due diligence, someone else’s decisions, and someone else’s fuckups.

I’ve been an EdTech worker for 15 years, and probably will be one for many many more (such is the way society is currently structured). Maybe this doesn’t need to be written. But I’m in a spot where I can’t advance, and there’s no specific career path. There’s nothing up, or forward. There just is. I had ambitions; I still have ambitions periodically, but I can’t see a way to achieve them.

I’m faced with the reality that maybe this isn’t what I wanted.

When I started it was just after the gold rush – with education moving resources online, on websites, and yeah, into portal sites. There was a freedom, because none of the problems were solved. None of the solutions standardized. Systems were malleable, and could be broken in the most beautiful ways. Every challenge had some sweat and maybe tears before it was solved.

It was really beautiful because it was human. Now, things are so homogenous, and so bland in EdTech.

So I’ve taken my creativity elsewhere, and some of my thinking too. That’s why I can’t be bothered to write about the drudgery of administration of systems. Or EdTech in general.

Dead Drop no. 3

More Bots

http://pushpullfork.com/2017/09/botnet-cometh/

I’m following the public facing war between disinformation and the public. Yes, this is not a conspiracy theory, but an actual war, on social networks, aided and abetted by profiteering conspiracy theorists who want to make millions (in some cases) off paranoia. It’s fascinating because it really means the end of being online as a non-combat participant. Everyone is involved in this.

https://moz.com/blog/chat-bot

https://tutorials.botsfloor.com/opensource-ai-chat-bot-framework-with-natural-language-understanding-and-conversational-abilities-7c6b71e2c461

One of the important aspects of successful bots are the natural chat sophistication. Mapping conversations is part of that. Also, this open sourced framework for conversation construction is going to be extremely helpful.

https://booking.design/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-designing-a-chat-bot-4f07886d3fd0

Amazing how Medium is taking over from where WordPress used to dominate. More tips about chatbot design. Really interesting stuff here, some of it straight forward and obvious, but I really dig reading about how other people made decisions.

https://github.com/google/bottery

Google’s chat engine/bot framework.

Dead Drop no.2

A second hodgepodge of things I’ve found on the Internet.

How to Build a Twitter Bot

http://www.zachwhalen.net/posts/how-to-make-a-twitter-bot-with-google-spreadsheets-version-04/

https://www.labnol.org/internet/write-twitter-bot/27902/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3031500/how-twitter-bots-fool-you-into-thinking-they-are-real-people

The third article is the most interesting because it’s from 2014 (remember Klout scores?) and really shows how little (and how much) has changed in the Twitter bot universe. Essentially the heart of the strategy is the same, but mixed with a way to learn (through AI, or natural language processing which is clearly being done at some more sophisticated campaigns) and adapt depending on where we are, I suspect that we are on the cusp of what the future looks like when everyone you meet online could not actually be a person. My Philip K. Dick collection became a lot less sci-fi and more prescient.

More Bots (Cisco Spark/Microsoft Teams):

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/botsconversation

https://developer.ciscospark.com/bots.html

Both Cisco Spark and Microsoft Teams are available where I work. Both have vague collaboration mandates, both can be used for communication. At this point, Spark might be more advanced with third party enhancements and bots. Teams might end up being the platform of choice if students are involved. I’m hoping to build a chatbot to handle common sorts of requests that our LMS support team get (ie. the stuff we have a predefined reply in our ticketing system, which isn’t attended to after 4:30 PM).

Natural Language Processing:

https://research.google.com/pubs/NaturalLanguageProcessing.html

https://medium.com/@jrodthoughts/ambiguity-in-natural-language-processing-part-ii-disambiguation-fc165e76a679

https://chatbotsmagazine.com/the-problem-with-chatbots-how-to-make-them-more-human-d7a24c22f51e

Natural language is key for the chatbot above, and of course the first attempt will be ruthlessly primitive I’m sure.

Chatbots in General:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/18/chatbots-talk-town-interact-humans-technology-silicon-valley

D2L Fusion 2017 Recap

Every year it’s a bit different; some new faces appear, some old ones disappear. Jobs and roles change, focus changes. Las Vegas is a place that exemplifies an absurd demonstration of capitalism at its most consumer-driven absurdity. With the event happening in Las Vegas, I thought that D2L might be subtly telling us that they were taking a gamble. Turns out, that the gamble is not a big, all-in shove to take the pot, but perhaps a less-sexy gamble of shying away from glitzy announcements, to a more mature, iterative approach.

People talk about Las Vegas light shows being spectacular, but the one over Oklahoma City was pretty dang cool.

Flying Near Lightning from Jon Kruithof on Vimeo.

Usually in my recaps I’ll talk about the sessions I attended and what I learned. This year, was like every other, the sessions were well done, interesting, and useful (although maybe not immediately useful in my case). I won’t break down each thing learned, or really talk about what the learning was, instead I’ll reflect on the conference as a whole and maybe some of the underlying things that were interesting.

My focus this year was to really better understand two things, API extensibility and the data hub (Brightspace Data Platform, or BDP, which is awful close to ODB). I think I did that. I attended one session that described how they use the API to scrape everyone’s course outline, which was cool because that’s something that has come up periodically at McMaster, and I’ll have to get in touch with them to see how they handled ownership and other matters. It’s that fine line that admins run up against, where they can do things, but should they? We often fall on the no, we shouldn’t side.

I didn’t really pay attention to the keynotes – John Baker’s become quite a good speaker – but I’ve heard it before. I’ve been working at D2L clients now for almost a decade. I’m probably as intimately familiar with the product as many of the people working at D2L. Ray Kurzweil is interesting as a person, and I appreciate some of his theories, I don’t think the singularity will happen (we may approach it, but never achieve it) and I don’t really dig his speaking style. The talk (for me) really circled around the changing nature of work and that is a reality of my everyday.

I did a session about the work we’re doing badging faculty for skill in LMS use, more in another post about that.

I saw echoes of what I’ve done around faculty training in other presentations (which I stole from others whom I’ve worked with and talked to). More importantly, I walked around chatting with folks I know, wondering if this was still right for me? Is EdTech still the thing that I want to be working in? I’ve been in this field since 2001 (or 2003, or 2005, depending on when you want to mark my start – whether as a computer programming co-op student looking after a language lab, or when I graduated or when I first started working in higher education relatively uninterrupted). That’s a long time. I’m still energized by seeing the exciting things that other people are doing. And almost to a person, whenever I say to those people, “hey that’s awesome” or express my interest, there’s the same, humble responses of surprise that anyone would want to talk to them about what they’re doing. I don’t know if that’s a Fusion specific thing, or an EdTech person thing, or just my humble radar forcing me to talk to those people.

It also reminded me that any interesting work was extending the LMS –  using Node.js to create an Awards Leaderboard, doing data analysis for LMS wide analytics using the Brightspace Application API. Hell, even understanding what the Discrimination Index means in the Quiz tool.

My personal underlying theme was that there’s more that can be done with the LMS if you extend it’s capabilities. I think we’re on the cusp of doing just that. 

Once again, it was a fun after the conference experience. Hanging out with some of my favourite people (and recognizing the posse from just a few short years ago is just about gone!).

 

The CRAP Test Doesn’t Work?

Mike Caulfield (@holden on Twitter) delivered a keynote a long while back which I only caught on twitter by way of others posts. It’s interesting that one of his comments was that the CRAP Test Doesn’t work in a world filled with misinformation. Now, the fact that the CRAP Test isn’t a widely taught technique, nor that the real components that one needs to do (including such archaic things as WHOIS searching, and name searches geolocation of posts by IP and cross referencing with known authorities) something that the general public doesn’t​ do. It’s too much work. So sure, that aspect of it “doesn’t work”, but the underlying skills founded in skepticism work. If you use them. I think that’s an important distinction. To say the tool doesn’t work because the person doesn’t use it is a bit disingenuous.

Most people don’t, because they take a short cut, because it was a parent, in-law or someone they know and trust who forwarded it. Or it already fits their point of view. Or it passed a superficial sniff test. And that’s where the conspiracy theory peddlers make money. And much like advertising where it’s not effective the first time you see the ad and think you need a new sofa, it’s the thirtieth time when you actually need a sofa, that your brain brings up the ad you saw repeatedly.

The public has been primed for this for years. It’s essentially advertising that has replaced truth. It’s bullshit that’s replaced truth. It’s repetition that’s replaced truth.

And with that, the Internet has ended. Well, the Internet that held hope for a lot of educators, for a lot of activists, for a lot of free thinkers and artists. For marginalized folks. If we take this as a parrallel to punk rock – which exploded in 1976 with diversity of sound and voice, and quickly marginalized people by 1979 by getting harder, faster and more straightforward, we can see what the future of a “free” Internet will look like. Lots of the same, but with pockets of interesting, but marginal works. Except this time, we got close to 10 years of the web before it became an advertising platform for bullshit, junk and waste, with some good information out there.

This is the end of truth:

What conspiracy theorists, bullshit peddlers, technology hacks, blackmailers, and those who value lies over truth want has won. Technology has helped them get there faster than we can manage. And no one is working on a way to fight this bullshit, because there’s no money in a truth serum.

Dead Drop no.1

Dead drop is a term that describes a way for two espionage agents to signal an exchange, or some event. This collection of sites with a bit of text is similar to that. It’s funny how I’ve done these things in waves – this time the infrequency will continue but I’ll try to use this titling to link it all together.

Badging/Gamification

https://alistapart.com/article/gaming-the-system-and-winning

http://cct.edc.org/projects/digital-badges-research

Both these articles are deep-ish dives into the related fields of gamification, digital badges and extrinsic motivation. One from a design perspective, which is part of the story I’ll be talking about this summer – how well designed badging experiences can help with adoption – and really understanding your audience and who you’ll be badging. The other is part of the HASTAC research project on K-12 students and looks at the effectiveness of badges on that group.

Data Visualization/Storytelling with Data

https://alistapart.com/article/big-data-visualization-with-meaning

I’ve really rediscovered how much I love A List Apart. I haven’t built a full on website for a couple years, and wouldn’t consider it part of my daily job, but I really do love designing things. With that said, there’s a narrative story that most sites have, whether you recognize it or not. Big data visualizations are really telling you a story as a website tells/sells you a story.

Web Design

https://html5up.net/txt

A really great framework for sites courtesy of Cogdogblog. I’ve been thinking about creating a website for myself, which would link here, and to the photo gallery I’m planning on doing up and trying to build something that touches the intersecting parts of my life. I’m not sure why, after 20 years on the Internet I think this is the time to build a vanity site, but maybe it is? I think back to all the things I’ve done that should be documented somewhere (but aren’t) and all the work I’ve done on ePortfolios, and it seems like I should be doing this more seriously. And age is a factor I’m sure. It’s funny that I’ve tried to keep my social life, my family life and my “professional” life separate, and done quite well at segmenting the three areas. I have no problem sharing parts of those lives within each context, but I’m 99% sure that people that know me from educational technology circles don’t necessarily care about my band.

Deep Learning/Surveillance Society

https://www.oreilly.com/learning/how-does-facebook-recognize-my-face-and-the-faces-of-friends-and-family

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/01/facebook-advertising-data-insecure-teens

Yeah, creepy. I’ve had three conversations about leaving Facebook with three different people this week. Reminder, in 2014 Facebook did the exact same thing: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/02/facebook-apologises-psychological-experiments-on-users

Reclaiming My Digital Identity

After deleting my Yahoo accounts and thinking about the stuff that’s gathered all around the web – I think it’s time to reclaim my stuff. So I made  a list of all the places I consume/create things on the web:

  • Faceboook – how I connect to family and friends, manage a band page
  • Flickr – still have some photos there
  • Tumblr – Hamilton Punk and Hardcore visual archive
  • Picasa/Google Photos – have quite a few photos from my phone
  • Instagram – yeah, photos here too
  • Twitter – my edtech tweets
  • Google+ – not really but some stuff there
  • various message boards – music, music and more music
  • LinkedIn – work related
  • PebblePad – ePortfolio
  • Trello – abandoned workflow/project management
  • Vimeo – portfolio related videos
  • YouTube – portfolio, music (two separate accounts), general watching (yes, a third account for stuff I’ve watched)
  • Discogs – record collection
  • Google Drive/Docs – three different accounts for three reasons (work, personal/travel, music)
  • Dropbox – filesharing
  • Diigo – bookmarks 
  • The Old Reader – RSS
  • Netvibes – RSS

Some of those make sense to reclaim (photos for sure), some don’t because the purpose is to leverage their platforms to communicate. The ones in italics make some sense to reclaim to me. The one benefit is that the storage for stuff out there, is paid for by someone else. However I’m thinking about how a website reflects one’s identity and maybe it’s time for a more holistic version of what I am, who I am.